Helping Lab Techs in Bellevue Get Back to Work with Vocational Rehab Training
At first glance, managing slides for doctors’ offices doesn’t seem like hazardous work. But appearances can be deceiving. Histology technicians look at patients’ bloodwork and label it for physicians to later examine under a microscope for diagnosis. Repetitive motions over time can lead to injuries that are just as debilitating as more dramatic accidents.
Vocational Rehab Training Benefits a Bellevue Technician
Take the referral Tim Barker received from a Bellevue medical laboratory. One of their technicians had injured her arm to the point where she couldn’t work anymore. “It’s a sedentary job, but there’s a lot of reaching,” says Barker, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with Single Handed Consulting. “Her dominant arm was affected.”
In a typical scenario, the company would have filed a claim, the injured worker would have gone on disability, and eventually they would have let her go - at great cost to everyone. Between paying time-loss costs and the expense of hiring and training another employee to take on that role, the company would have sustained a severe financial blow. Further, the more time went by, the less likely that employee would be to return to work, creating economic hardship for her and her family.
In reality, the scenario turned out quite differently due to Single Handed’s approach to workers compensation claims. Single Handed counselors are trained to look for any and every way to keep injured workers on the job because they understand the entire claims process, not just their own role within it.
“If I don’t take a really hard look, I may not achieve the goal I’m after,” says Kevin Leneker, founder and co-owner. “Often companies will get different results based on who they hire as a vocational counselor. My whole goal is to change that. We believe people are entitled to the best service they can get.”
To that end, Leneker has launched an initiative to standardize processes at Single Handed and ensure consistent quality. “We want to train for the whole claims process, not just the vocational part,” he explains. “Our employees get a huge overview of why we’re there and how we can achieve the best result.”
Standardizing Vocational Rehab Training Benefits Everyone
Recently, Leneker introduced a contest for his entire 29-member staff: within a 60-day window, anyone who submitted written documentation of a process they use in the course of doing their job got their name put into a hat. “The idea is that everyone should be at the same level of service,” says Leneker. “Ultimately these documents can be used as a reference tool for training with links and pictures.”
The staff could submit an unlimited number of entries. Once the 60 days has passed, SHC will spend another 30 days beta testing the system and making changes as necessary. Then a name will be pulled from the hat, with the winner getting an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean.
Once complete, Leneker wants to use the collected information to create a training module for each aspect of the claims process, including videos. A video demonstrating how to create a successful outcome during the first meeting with injured employees, for example, might demonstrate the difference between sitting next to a client versus across from them. “I can achieve a totally different result by understanding these soft skills,” says Leneker. “They’re almost like interviewing skills.”
The same is true of working with employers and helping them to understand that the best possible outcome for their business usually involves finding a way to keep their injured employee on the job. Two powerful resources exist through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (LNI): The Stay at Work and Preferred Worker programs. Many employers, however, are unaware of their existence or uncertain about how to use them.
In the Bellevue histology technician’s case, that’s where Barker came in. “When I met with the employer, we spent time looking at these programs and going through how to use the LNI website to obtain the information they needed and the benefits they have the right to use,” he explains.
The end result? The technician came back to work part-time in a new role as a Safety Officer. For the first year she was able to work just four days a week, but now she’s doing five hours a day, five days a week. “We developed a job analysis and the doctor approved her to work at this level,” says Barker. “Now she’s a safety officer and does a little bit of admin work that’s within her capacity. Her hours are going up.”